I've traveled to El Salvador once before, so when I was asked to co-lead a missions team from my church, Lovers Lane United Methodist, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a lengthy flight and corraling everyone through airport terminals, the missions team of ten landed in El Salvador on a Saturday night. We spent Sunday visiting different villages around San Salvador but then we were hard at work on Monday.
For the next four days, we were assigned to a small and humble rural public school. The teaching staff gave us our various assignments such as arts and crafts, English class, and drama class but our primary focus was to just love on these kids. At first, the kids weren’t too sure of us and who can blame them. These are village children who have had friends killed by gangs, been raped, whose parents abuse them, who don’t have enough food, and who are quite unsure of the future ahead of them. Bottom line, their lives are so riddled with strife and disappointment, suicide is often and sadly the common escape among most fourth and fifth graders.
Over the four days, we got to know several of the kids, built relationships with them and showed them we really do care about them. By day four, they were so full of joy and hope they wanted nothing more than to have our attentions, hugs, and words of encouragement.
It was an unforgettable experience and I am looking forward to doing it again next year! As a photographer, these trips are often the most joyous because of the sheer passion and emotion they bring. Nowhere else do I ever witness people experiencing such hard life circumstances and they are still able to muster a smile. There's often a twinkle in their eye deep down somewhere that's aching to come out - and they just need a reason for it to shine.
Here are just a few of the photos captured during the trip.